Not every American was eligible for the economic impact payment included in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act stimulus package signed into law in late March. Some have unfortunately found that out while waiting for their stimulus checks, including young adults listed as dependents on family members' tax filings. One North Carolina student who was waiting on her check did not even know she was claimed as a dependent until after she filed an application to get one.
Malieah Habisch, who was laid off from her job about a month into the pandemic, told WCNC she was anxiously waiting for the government's $1,200 payment to help her out. "I went to get my stimulus check, fill out the application to do so, and get news back that someone claimed me on their taxes," Habisch said. She later discovered a distant family member claimed her as a dependent without telling her.
"I started crying because it’s so stressful not being able to access something that is meant to help people during this time," Habisch said. "I just felt heartbroken. It’s like how does your family member do something like that without you knowing, that’s something that should be told to you."
Habisch is not alone. Soree Finley, an attorney at the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, told WCNC she has "spoken to several individuals" who were claimed as a dependent by family members unknowingly. "Often people don't know that they were claimed as a dependent, specifically when it comes to social security recipients," Finley explained, adding that not all hope is lost.
"They can file what is called a superseding tax return. In other words, they can file their 2019 tax return," Finley said. "That would audit the taxpayer who claimed them and incentive them to not claim that person again in the future." According to Finley, former dependents who also file 2020 tax returns may be eligible to receive a stimulus check next year. However, some might claim a person as dependent in a fraud attempt. If you suspect fraud, you have to report it to the IRS using Form 3949-A, Information Referral.
The CARES Act's one-time $1,200 stimulus check was automatically sent to Americans who filed federal taxes for 2018 or 2019 and had an income of $75,000 or less. Couples earning $150,000 or less were eligible for $2,400 payments. Dependents under 17 were also eligible for $500, added to the head-of-household's payment. This meant that high school seniors, college students and other young adults still claimed as dependents were not eligible for any stimulus payment, which caused outrage on social media once many people learned of this mistake in the law.